Haven from Hitler

Book : Haven from Hitler

There has rarely been more material about both the first and second world wars, entering the media, than at the present time due to the anniversaries of both. The most affecting of all the books and films that are being released are those where the story is told by someone who brings it home to a personal connection. This is very much the case in Haven from Hitler, last year’s winner in the Welsh language Welsh Book of the Year, and now published by Y Lolfa in English. It is a beautifully written but harrowing and  deeply disturbing read which tells of the family of Kate Bosse-Griffiths, a woman of German-Jewish descent, who fled the brutal regime of the Nazis to eventually become a leading academic figure in Wales, learning and writing in the Welsh language. She was Keeper of Archaeology at Swansea Museum and specialised in Egyptian studies marrying J Gwyn Griffiths whose name will be familiar to some as a famous academic and Egyptologist. He was also a Welsh Nationalist, and a well-known figure at Swansea University and their son was Robat Gruffudd, the founder of Y Lolfa, whilst their daughter is Heini Gruffudd, the author of this book. Hence the personal connection in the book is strong and somehow lends a quality and depth to  this story of how the family attempted to get out of Germany at a time when one Non-Aryan person in a family would bring the regime down on to all of them. The family’s escape and ultimate survival is a profoundly moving story and following the publication of the Welsh version of the book, new material came to light which has now been included in this, the English version. This material centres on the tragedy of a family suicide, committed to allow the remainder of the family to escape, and other material which adds to the feeling of chaos and terror that reigned at the time for those caught up in the holocaust. The Welsh version Yr Erlid was reviewed in Planet magazine by Simon Brooks, whose words capture how for this family the horrific events of the second world war still resonate to this day ‘For Kate’s descendants in Wales the Holocaust is not a terrible event visited on others, but a catastrophe to which the Welsh language community is also witness.’ Sad and brave and somehow terrifyingly close to home, Haven from Hitler is published by Y Lolfa and was launched by Heini Gruffudd in April at the Egypt Centre, Swansea University

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